From a distance, “Saturated With the Subconscious” looks aggressively minimalist: a series of white rectangles affixed to Flashpoint Gallery’s walls. But it turns out that the shapes, fabricated of porcelain and glass by Baltimore-based Megan Van Wagoner, represent the pillows that cushion your head while you sleep. And you know what happens while you sleep. Or rather, you don’t.
Van Wagoner’s collaborator, D.C. painter Erik Thor Sandberg, imagines that he does. On the pillows themselves, seemingly obscured by simulated pillowcases, are dream and nightmare images: skeletons, dancing animals and nude women, some in erotic poses. Transformations are recurring motifs and often involve hair: Small figures swim in the sea of a woman’s long red tresses, an extravagant beard undergoes a metamorphosis into a hare, a goat eats the body of a woman who’s made of leaves.
The premise is worthy of a Pixar movie: The characters and scenarios of your strangest reveries dwell in your pillow, awaiting a chance to slip into your half-aware brain. But Sandberg doesn’t favor the bulbous, sterile forms of computer animation. He’s a skilled realist, grounded in European Renaissance art, not a mere copyist. Sandberg’s large-scale paintings suggest 16th-century Biblical canvases, while illustrating a cosmology all his own.
For this show, Sandberg worked on a smaller scale. Some of the pillows have their cases pulled partway off, giving the painter more room to work. But most of them are fully covered, so Sandberg’s dreamscapes are visible just through the opening at one end. Viewers must peek past the pillowcases, observing intimately as if trying to peer into a slumbering person’s brain. If only everyone’s dreams were as artful as these surrealistic pillows.
Erik Thor Sandberg + Megan Van Wagoner: Saturated With the Subconscious On view through Aug. 8 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. www.culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.
The Watergate Gallery’s annual sculpture show fits metalwork, wood assemblages, neon and dioramas into one medium-size space. Well, almost. Five larger pieces stand in the retail courtyard just beyond the gallery’s doors, where they look right at home.
“2015 Summer Sculpture” includes works by 12 artists, some of which are probably familiar to regular, local gallerygoers. There are elegant metal root-structure sculptures by Dalya Luttwak and one of Craig Kraft’s funky neon pieces based on graffiti from a Mississippi juke joint. Veronica Szalus stacks wire rectangles and renders the resulting tower white-on-white with paint and interior lighting. Sam Noto curves steel stalks into bouquets of sorts, sometimes painted and in one case with stones standing in for blossoms. Jeff Chyatte’s brushed-aluminum puzzle pieces seem to spiral in place, and sometimes to pivot on a single corner.
The largest and most complex of Chyatte’s pieces is outside the gallery. So is a graceful Noto sculpture whose arcing purple tendrils turn silver at their tips. The heaviest of the outdoor works is Richard Vosseller’s “Monument,” which is imposing enough for that title. But the steel monolith has a rust-brown patina and is crumpled to resemble a large cardboard box that fell off a truck. The juxtaposition of heft and vulnerability makes the sculpture a monument to visual wit.
2015 Summer Sculpture On view through Aug. 15 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. www.watergategalleryframedesign.com
For 30 years, the Corcoran College of Art and Design has sponsored a portfolio to showcase prints by students, faculty and, sometimes, alumni. This year’s theme is ironic: “Forever.” The Corcoran survives as a branch of George Washington University, and the annual print array may also continue, but the museum and school no longer exist independently. Forever is over.
Many of these 40 pieces explicitly address that development. Elizabeth Klimek’s “Corcoran SOS” shows the museum’s facade with an upside-down American flag, a sign of distress. Kerry McAleer-Keeler’s “Ever,” which also includes an image of the museum, is a Chinese-style fortune. The building fades into silvery mist in “Intervenors” — by Jayme McLellan, a leader of the campaign to preserve the Corcoran — and burns in Lauren Wright’s screenprint, inspired by Ed Ruscha’s painting of the L.A. County Museum of Art ablaze (which belongs to the Hirshhorn).
Dennis O’Neil hails the Corcoran’s heritage indirectly with a tribute to the late Tom Green, who taught at the school. Carolyn Hartman invokes the other inspiration for “Forever” — U.S. postage stamps — with a screenprint of Niagara Falls overlaid with a simulated cancellation. Perhaps the drollest entry is Shane Sullivan’s etching and screenprint of a printer cartridge with the warning “refill ink forever.” Eternal life requires perpetual maintenance.
Forever: The Corcoran Print Portfolio On view through Aug. 14 at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St. NW. 202-347-7978. www.hemphillfinearts.com/exhibitions/carroll-square-gallery/currentexhibitions.
Arranging his “Resident A.D.” on walls at Civilian Art Projects, Champneys Taylor realized that the 11-painting suite divides between heavy and light. That’s not merely a matter of color, though there’s certainly more yellow, blue and pale green on one side than on the other. All these abstract pictures use bars and blocks of color and are punctuated by spatter. But some of them present surfaces that are more layered and intensely worked, featuring large fields of gray or gold, bordered by small areas of brighter hues.
Taylor works mostly in acrylic but sometimes uses house paint as a base or incorporates metallic elements. While “Aphid Twin” employs gold pigment that the D.C. artist acquired during a sojourn in Venice, “Wink” and others are mostly mottled-gray expanses that resemble concrete, but also storm clouds. Landscape is a more obvious reference in pictures such as “G.D. Beach Break (flag 2),” in which a stripe of oceanic blue tops one of sandy yellow. “Resident A.D.” is a self-contained demimonde, but allows glimmers of the real world.
Champneys Taylor: Resident A.D. On view through Aug. 8 at Civilian Art Projects, 4718 14th St. NW. 202-607-3804. www.civilianartprojects.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.